ANOTHER banking group with a big foothold in and around Southampton has posted a rise in annual multi-billion-pound profits.

HBOS weighed in with a whooping pre-tax £4.6 billion - a 22 per cent rise.

The figure for last year is double the £2.29 billion that HBOS reported in the first year after its creation in 2001, when Halifax merged with Bank of Scotland to create Britain's fourth largest bank.

HBOS is a big player in Southampton with hundreds of people employed.

It has corporate offices at Commercial Road's Oceana House and other bases include the city's High Street and Botley, where private banking and investment work is carried out.

The profits bonanza also spells good news for the group's army of shareholders in Hampshire.

They will each receive a full-year dividend of 32.95p a share - seven per cent more than last year.

An estimated 2.5 million private investors will share about £345m of a total payout of £1.28 billion.

The bank's performance was helped by an improvement of more than a fifth in earnings from its high street operations, which made a surplus of £2.06 billion.

Tight cost controls and volume growth for the increase in profits also boosted results.

Meanwhile, HBOS's share of the UK mortgage lending market fell from 25 per cent to 17 per cent after adopting a more cautious approach.

HBOS remained upbeat on the outlook for this year.

It said: "While consumer spending has slowed, the prospects for employment remain bright and the trends in business investment appear healthy.

"Housing transactions have come back from last year's peak but prices remain underpinned by strong employment and interest rates that are at or close to a peak."

As previously reported by the Daily Echo this week, HSBC posted profits of £9.2 billion, while the Royal Bank of Scotland made £6.9 billion.

In all, the major UK banks are likely to have made £30 billion during the year.